New Directions – Fall 1977

The Director Writes

By: Martin Biddle

Originally Published in 1977

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At the conclusion of the distinguished directorship of Froelich Rainey, reaching back over some of the most formative years of modern archaeology, during which the University Museum played a major part in active research in many countries, it is a time to take stock, to see what we stand for, and where we should go. The Museum was ninety years old this December 1977. Our tenth decade must be a time of consolidation, of re-orientation to the needs of anthropological and archaeological research in the late twentieth century, and of re-commitment to standards of excellence both in the Museum and in the field.

The situation before us requires nothing less than the rebirth of this unique institution. The problems of caring for a great building of historic importance in its own right, of funding the renovation of our galleries and storage areas, of looking after our superb and immense collections, and of publishing to scholarly standards the fieldwork of many decades, demand re-organization and fresh thinking in every area. To lead the administration of the Museum and to carry through the large-scale program of fund-raising that is necessary, we have been fortunate in securing as Secretary of the Museum Mr. Ronald J. Goff, formerly Assistant Director of the Baltimore Museum of Art. The problems facing the Museum in the management of its collections are shared with most if not all comparable institutions in this country. We have decided to face them by the creation of a Museological Service, to be led by Dr. Mary Elizabeth King as Keeper of Collections. Dr. King comes to us from Texas Tech at Lubbock and is an internationally respected scholar in the fields of textiles and the management of museum collections. The collections are a resource which we hold in trust for the cultures from which they came and equally for present and future generations. Their safe-keeping, conservation, study and presentation, whether on display, in reserve areas, or by publication, are a paramount duty which we do not intend to shirk.

The great program of excavations and other field expeditions carried out under the auspices of the University Museum since the Second World War has not been matched by the appro¬≠priate scholarly publication of the results. Once again, this is not an uncommon experience, but it is both a weakness of the discipline of archaeology and an institutional weakness which we recognise and for which we accept full responsibility. To begin more adequately to fulfill our obligations in this area, the Museum has secured the services of Mr. Alan M. Cook as Keeper of Publication Services. Mr. Cook is an Australian, who has worked for many years as a historic buildings architect with the British Inspectorate of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings. There he was responsible for recording, interpreting and presenting to the lay and scholarly publics, both in display and in publication, some of the great buildings of England, ranging from prehistoric sites to castles, such as the Tower of London, and palaces, such as Hampton Court and Whitehall. We intend to develop within the Museum the drawing, photographic and editorial services needed to secure the effective and rapid publication of the Museum’s many excavations over the last decades.

To carry out adequately these objectives which we have set ourselves, we need also to define our long-range goals as an institution. Which constituencies should we serve, and how? What sort of academic institution should the University Museum be in the future and how should its fundamental role as the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania be orchestrated? What, at the end of, this twentieth century, should our research objectives be? What are our responsibilities to the countries and cultures in which and with which we have worked and hope to work? These questions and more we take with us into our tenth decade. I am confident that we shall approach our centenary reborn.

Cite This Article

Biddle, Martin. "New Directions – Fall 1977." Expedition Magazine 20, no. 1 (October, 1977): -. Accessed June 15, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

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